Business profs need to hit the books

The College of Business and Public Policy recently underwent an accreditation review with the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. The college is currently accredited by AACSB, but it must increase the number of research-producing faculty in order to maintain its accreditation.

“To graduate from an AACSB-accredited school is an important marketing distinction for our students,” said Thomas Case, the college’s dean.

The college first achieved its national accreditation 10 years ago, but AACSB recently changed its standards to accommodate international business colleges and universities. Five-year reviews to reaffirm accreditation are held, along with annual reviews, to demonstrate a university’s progress.

“We are fully accredited,” said Frank Jeffries, assistant dean. “The review process does not change our accreditation status.”

The team that reviewed UAA’s progress was comprised of business professors from the University of North Dakota, University of Portland and University of Idaho, schools of about the same size and scope as UAA, Case said.

The team found that while faculty did well at engaging students in the classroom, the number of research-producing faculty is too low. The team will return next year to review the past six years of the college’s progress.

Research-producing faculty are known as tripartite faculty, meaning they teach at UAA, serve the community and produce intellectual contributions to their career field. Since the accreditation board holds universities to their own standards of faculty research, UAA needs to meet its own goal.

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“The rule that the accreditation has is 50 percent of classes have to be taught by faculty that are academically qualified,” said Greg Protasel, a professor in the public administration department. To be considered academically qualified, a faculty member must meet UAA’s expectation of contributing a certain amount of research to the general body of knowledge.

“They’re reasonable standards, but they’re high standards,” Case said.

Currently, slightly less than 50 percent of the college’s tripartite faculty are producing research, but that percentage can fluctuate between 5 and 66, Jeffries said.

“It varies by semester depending on who’s on sabbatical and who’s not,” he said.

The research component for faculty is organized into two categories. Faculty must produce two Category A contributions, such as books, book chapters and academic or professional journal articles, and three Category B contributions, such as conference presentations, book editing and reviews or teaching materials in a five year period.

Protasel said the college’s research standards are relatively new. “They may not have begun until this year or last; there was some lag time,” he said.

A scheduled seminar series will help faculty improve their research before presenting it at conferences or submitting it for publication, said Case.

“In a top journal, you’ve got a 5 percent acceptance rate, so you’ve got a 95 percent change of getting rejected,” Jeffries said.

UAA also has research opportunities for students, but Protasel said these opportunities are not a necessary ingredient for the research goal.

“Expanding the program will help. It doesn’t have to involve students; students aren’t the key,” Protasel said, suggesting faculty aging may be a more relevant topic.

“A lot of the faculty are getting older and so there really needs to be a hard look at how we’re going to maintain programs as faculty start to retire,” he said.

Jeffries said the most important step to fixing the research problem is making faculty aware of it.

“Research is kind of like maintaining things in your house. It’s like you know you need to change the oil in your car, but you don’t think about it every day.”

Jeffries also said the review team noticed faculty in UAA’s business college are teaching more classes than the national average. Most university faculty teach three fall classes and two spring classes, but UAA business faculty teach three both semesters.

“I don’t have time to do research during the year because there’s too much going on,” Jeffries said. “They’re doing research on their own time. And that’s a problem.”

“I’m confident that we’ll be able to demonstrate continued improvement in our percentages,” Case said. “I think UAA is on an upward vector.”